When the fish head upstream to spawn, Salmon River in Pulaski, New York is lined with fishermen. As the Old Men ate breakfast beside a swollen creek, they reminisced over fishing expeditions — including at Pulaski.

Tuesday, April 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Kim’s West Wind Diner on Route 145 in Preston Hollow.

The OFs who took the long way around on the flats, made better time than the OFs who came over the mountain. There was quite an elevation fog that made the mountain trek much slower. Generally, over the mountain is a nice way to get to the diner because the views coming down the mountain from Rensselaerville are spectacular.

This question was asked by one OF: Why is Preston Hollow here? This scribe found little information, the population as of  the 2010 census was 366 souls, down from the 2000 census, which showed that the roads were trodden by only 748 human feet kicking up dust.

It seems that a fellow from Connecticut, Dr. Samuel Preston, settled here in 1789. Why? Beats us.

Then, four years later,(Dr. Sam must have lived like a hermit), in 1793, along came Henry Couchman who found the nearest mill was in Leeds by Catskill — that’s a hike from Preston Hollow — and the nearest apple tree was in Schoharie — again, another hike. The connection between the two points again beats the OFs,.

However, Henry did purchase a bushel of apples from the tree in Schoharie and brought them to Preston Hollow and started an orchard. This is about all you could do here because there are hills on both sides of the Catskill Creek at Preston Hollow; actually from Middleburgh to Catskill along Route 145 there is really very little flat land — the mountains are like a vertex of an isosceles triangle at the creek.

Fish tales

With the creek running pretty full in back of the diner, one of the topics at the table was fishing, and the opening day of fishing this year. Unfortunately, none of the OFs at my end of the table were out casting their lures in the water this year.

“At 27 degrees outside, I’m staying in,” one OF said and the others concurred. Leave it for the kids was the consensus of the older guys.

However, then they began talking fishing stories, mostly fishing the Salmon River around Pulaski, New York. One of the reasons for taking this trip, according to OFs, was that, not only was the fishing great, but it was an easy drive, and did not take too long.

One OF mentioned how slippery the rocks are on the banks of the river and it is a good idea to have spikes on your waders. This scribe is not a fisherman so he had no idea spikes came with waders. If this scribe were walking with spikes on slippery rocks, the first thing this scribe would do is fall in. Spikes on wet rocks did not seem to compute.

The OFs who fished the Salmon River did fall in at one time or another. One was carried downstream a few yards and did not drop his pole. Which comes first, drowning or saving your fishing pole?  In this case it looks like drowning wins out — save the pole.

One OF fell in and his waders filled with water so he was entirely soaked and the OF did not bring extra clothes. He said he was soaked from head to toe and froze the rest of the day. The lesson learned here was: Even if the OF was going fishing only for the day, it would be good to bring extra everything (in the way of clothes) just in case.

In Pulaski, the salmon fishermen are lined along both sides of the river for miles, and in the river there are islands. One OF said lots of fisherpeople go out to the islands to fish. However, when on an island and hearing a siren going off, it is not a fire, it is time to clear the islands because the water is going to rise.

When the siren does goes off and you don’t clear off the island, then the fishermen on that island can plan on spending the night there, and on some of the islands those who did not heed the warning will have to scurry to high ground. One OF said there you are on that island, in waders, no porta-johns and you are going to be there for the next 12 to 15 hours.

What becomes of the fish that are caught the OFs didn’t say. The OFs never mentioned bringing coolers to bring them home, or if the salmon were even any good. To hear their stories, even when they fall in or get soaked, it sounds like all the OFs that head to the Salmon River to fish have a lot of fun.

This scribe’s only contact with fishing was taking his kids fishing (years ago) and this scribe spent the rest of the day untangling lines and baiting hooks; in the winter, it was digging holes in the ice and setting up tip-ups, plus freezing, so never once has this scribe cast a line. However, the “kids” who are now adults in their fifties still fish. Hmmmmm.

The OFs who made it to Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow and watched the rushing brown water of the Catskill Creek come very close to the back of the diner were: Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Richard Frank, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Don Wood, Ray Kennedy, Sonny Mercer, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Pastor Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, and me.

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On Tuesday, March 28, (thank goodness this month is almost to the end) the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.

The following OF report will be from notes that did not make previous reports because this scribe has one of the hardest colds he thinks he has ever had and so he did not make the breakfast.

One reason was because he had so much Coricidin in him that the drowsy bit was really working; the other reason was that he would not want any of the other OFs to catch it, for some of these old codgers it would do them in and the scribe would feel really bad about that because this scribe now hates to get dressed up.

Horning: A lost art

This scribe is going back to March 7, on a topic of buzz saws. One of the unusual uses of a large 36-inch buzz saw was at a horning. The OFs have conversed many times about what we used to do in the forties and fifties that was considered fun but would have the OFs arrested today.

When young couples got married in small country towns generally a horning was planned. This was not a secret to the young couple because they may have participated in a few hornings themselves. They also knew that when the horning was to happen was a closely guarded secret. The Pentagon could take lessons on how well the farmers handled this secret.

The young married couple would take part of their wedding money to prepare for this event. The OFs remember having a damaged buzz saw hung in the machinery shed on a farm just for this event. The night of the horning, the buzz saw was put to good use.

The saw was placed on a pry bar, or a length of heavy-duty pipe that was brought to the horning location. Two guys would hold up the saw and another guy would pound on it with a good size hammer. Big Ben would not ring through the night as loud as the buzz saw’s ring.  We have long and fond memories of these (now obsolete) gatherings.

Country noises

This next subject we discussed, and was found in our backlog of topics, is one not used from Jan. 31, and the note in the book is just noise. This scribe remembers what this was about but does not remember how the OFs came to talk about this.

The feeling that people say they are going out to the quiet of the country are in for a rude awakening, especially when the milking machines start running at four in the morning, and the milk truck makes its first stop around 5:30 or 6 a.m.

The country is not quiet. The noises are different — balers pounding, tractors running, blowers whining, belts slapping, fans whirring, and all kinds of other unexpected noise. Then there are the noises of the night. It is just like the city only different. There does come a time at night when the country becomes eerily quiet, and those not familiar with this sensation wake up wondering what has happened.

Musings on metrics

February 14th was a discussion on the metric system versus our fractional system. The OFs wonder why the whole world can’t be one or the other.

Why hasn’t the United States ever converted to the metric system? Short answer: It’s complicated.

One OF mentioned that Thomas Jefferson tried to convert us to this quite a few years back and it never took hold. When they attempted to have the United States go to the metric system, it ran into many problems.

The OFs were taught a smattering of metric at one time, but so little that it soon was forgotten about. Now there seems to be more metric labeling and equipment built overseas that incorporates some metric; however, just some of it is rubbing off on the OFs.

“Today,” one OF said, “if you are going to do any mechanical repairs, it is necessary to have two sets of tools: one metric, and one fractional.”

“Yeah,” another OF said, “when looking at a nut that I think is ¼ inch but half the time it turns out to be 6 mm.”

Another OF commented that he had put a bucket on a John Deere tractor he owned; the tractor was metric, and the bucket turned out to be Wentworth, which measured sizes in inches. What a mess that was. The OF said the bucket and attachment’s fasteners had to be taken out, holes re-drilled, and Helicoils (a metric coarse thread repair kit) were put in with fractional threads.

One OF said, when we ship overseas, we have to use the dang metric system but, when they ship goods over here, they use metric, and not our fractional system, which makes for a very unlevel playing field.

Yep, what they are doing is by osmosis so that eventually this country will go metric. Doctors talk metric, i.e., it is a 2-liter bottle, and speedometers now have both metric speed and fractional speed per hour.

“It will be a long time before it is complete — if ever,” one OF said. “Look at all the old tractors and hit-and-miss engine clubs that are around. Old cars and trucks that people keep running will still be fractional.”

Another OF said he would never get used to 34-26-34 being 91.44-56.04-91.44 cm., or they might just call it 92-57-92.  What a shame when they change that!

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and this scribe has no idea how they got there but at least they did, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Chuck Aelesio, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Otis Lawyer, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Ted Feurer, Herb Bahrmann, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, ( with guest Amy Willsey), Gerry Chartier, (with guest Winne Chartier), Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Frank, Harold Grippen, and not me.

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Tuesday, March 21, was a much better Tuesday than March 14.  

On the 21st, the Old Men of the Mountain were able to make it to the Home Front Café in Altamont. The 14th was the first time the OMOTM did not make it to a restaurant since the OFs have been getting together like this.

It takes a full-blown blizzard to stop the OFs. This storm even stopped the United States Post Office at some ZIP codes. Hey, even some bars were closed! The OFs said this was labeled a blizzard and the wind attested to that, but it still can’t top the Blizzard of 1993 according to the OFs.

A few of the OFs can do small-engine repairs, as well as getting some rusty old heap of a bulldozer repaired and running, and we have mentioned before how many OFs are capable of restoring old tractors. These OFs (including one who does the small-engine repair as a business) say this weather brings out people purchasing snowblowers and generators, and then, as spring really takes over, they return them to where they bought them.

These OFs can’t quite understand this viewpoint. If people thought they needed this equipment while being pelted with snow, what makes them think they won’t need it in the not-too-distant future? Do they think it is not going to snow again?

After all, it is the Northeast and our particular area is where two valleys and two rivers meet at about 90 degrees. Even the weather itself does not know what to do when it meets the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers at the Cohoes/Waterford area.

With the hills from Little Nose (near the village of Sprakers) on down towards Schenectady following the Mohawk River basically east and west, and the Helderbergs with the hills of Rensselaer County running basically north and south, any good weather system stops and scratches its head at these points, pondering what to do.

The OFs think every home should have a snow-removal tool of some kind, including a young back to work it.

Ready to retire?

The OFs discussed when to retire and that discussion had many opinions. This debate broke down into a few basic steps such as finances, health, and what to do when someone retires.

These steps take pre-planning when you are young enough to do so. Many of the OFs did not do this because when they were YFs it was not emphasized as much as it is today.

One OF said, when we were YFs, it was thought we would be dead before we got the chance to retire. So far, the OFs have managed pretty well.

More important than money, in most cases, is what to do when the retirement time comes. The OFs mentioned volunteering or developing a hobby that can be done without too much physical effort. Join a group that has a similar interest for you, or find religion. The worst thing is to just sit and turn to rust.

An OF mentioned that his wife takes care of his activity department with a job list under a magnet on the refrigerator. This OF said she keeps on his case until these chores are done, but then she keeps adding new ones

The OF said that, as he completes one job or the other, he dutifully crosses it out and marks that job done. The OF said one day there were five or six jobs on the list, so he hustled and got them all done in one day but this time the OF did not cross off the jobs that were done.

In about three days, the OF said his wife got on his case to work on the to-do list and the OF said he would get after them. In about a week, his wife was still after him, and the OF said he had a week’s complete reprieve of not having to do any of the dumb things she came up with, and it proved to him she never checked if they were done anyway; she just noticed the jobs were crossed off so she just came up with new ones to add to the list.

This is like the Amish Friendship Bread; people just keeping passing around the starter and the one who receives the starter keeps adding to it and passes some starter to the next sucker — err, friend.

Wanted: Veterans for Hilltown parade

This column keeps reporting that many of the OFs are veterans, and this year the Kiwanis is attempting to have a good contingent of veterans who live in the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, Westerlo, or Rensselaerville to be a part of the Hilltown Memorial Day Parade in the town of Berne.

The parade organizers would like to have all veterans (who are able) to participate so they are requesting any veterans in these towns to contact them at (518) 894-8589 and let them know who you are; if you prefer to march, prefer to ride, or are in a wheelchair; and if you need assistance getting in or out of a vehicle.

The Kiwanis guarantees there will be no snow. The Kiwanis will take care of you no matter how you get about.

Sour salespeople

The OFs talked about shopping and how most people who work in stores are pleasant and helpful, while others should find another line of work. These people are grumpy with some almost surly, like they are doing you a favor by being there to take care of you.

One OF attributed these woe-is-me characters to people just having a bad day. Another OF said that isn’t always the case here because every time he goes into a certain store and happens to have a certain person wait on him, the personality is the same.

Then one OF offered, “It may just be karma and you two do not connect; however, to the next person in line, this employee might be just as bubbly as the next one.”

This OF said he does not know how many places would keep a person who is really miserable all the time in a job where they have to deal with the public.

“Who knows?” another OF thought. “This particular person may be a relative and can’t get a job anywhere else.”

Another OF said he has a friend who isn’t happy unless he is miserable. The OFs don’t think there is a cure for that.

The OFs who were glad to get out and about and who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Marty Herzog, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Ted Willsey, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Tuesday, March 7, was a gray and dreary day, at least early in the morning — freezing rain, fog, and just plain rotten. The Old Men of the Mountain endured all this by traveling to Duanesburg for the comfort of the Duanesburg Diner to have breakfast.

For some reason, the weather spiked conversation about cutting ice from frozen ponds in the winter to be used in the summer. One OF mentioned that his family owned Warner Ice Co. and they cut ice from Warner Lake and stored it in large ice houses with sawdust to sell in the warmer months.

Some of the early OFs remember the ice house on the farm where they cut ice to use in the summer — especially for the milk cooler. Cutting the ice from ponds was hard work, and the ice just looked cold with the blue-green color of the fresh cut ice squares.

How times have changed.  Now our refrigerators dispense ice through their doors, or we just place a glass in the door of the refrigerator and cold water comes out.

The OFs discussed how many of them still have these ice-cutting saws stashed away someplace. If there ever happens to be a disaster that knocks out the power in the winter, some OFs still will be able to resort to the old ways and cut some ice.

However, if the problem happens in the summer, there will be lots of bad food out there. It was added that, with the increasing use of wind and solar power, the problem will be less likely that refrigeration or heat will shut down because many people will have their own source of power.

The storing of food, and the lifestyle on the Hill, means most of those on the Hill do have rather large stashes of food because they can’t run to the store every day and many have to shop for weeks in advance. Some of the OFs have extensive gardens and can or freeze this produce. The OFs put up jams and jellies, veggies, turkey, chicken, sauces, maple syrup, and some OFs even make their own brew.

Listening to these conversations on conservation, this scribe had a sudden thought:  Wouldn’t it be neat if in these large apartment complexes that rise many stories in the air would have on every fifth floor nothing but dirt, and each four floors could have their own community garden? Nah! This would never work, because those floors of dirt would not make enough money for the owners of the building.

Idling means less eating

The OFs continued to discuss food but this time it was how much less they eat as they get older. They all said they could not pack it away like they used to.

But one suggested that’s because they don’t do anything to work off all those calories the OFs used to suck in. The analogy used was an idling engine does not use as much fuel as one going 60 miles an hour and we are all in idle mode right now.

“Not me,” one OF said. “My mode is, ‘I am completely shut down.’ But  I still need my can of beans every now and then.”

Learning by observing

The OFs then talked a little bit about their educations and how they learned to do what it is that they do. The OFs said some of their knowledge came from schooling but a good part of it came from watching and learning.

One OF said his father did not talk much and was a very hard worker, at which most OFs chimed in that was the way with their dads also. The OFs felt that to be on the good side of dad was to learn how he did things and then the Young OF would do it the same way.

There were no how-to books thrown around, nor Google to run to, so the Young OF had to SOR (see, observe, and remember). That little phrase this scribe has on the bottom of his handout to the students in his art class, but it also applies to how to make an apple pie alongside Mom at the table, or how to weld two pieces of metal together alongside Dad in the garage.

Going to the dogs

As the OFs entered the diner in Duanesburg, they saw a new sign on the door. This sign caused some of the OFs to mill around outside, waiting for other OFs to show up.

The quandary here was the sign read, “No pets or animals allowed in diner except service dogs.” The OFs who were staying outside were considered animals and were waiting for an owner, which would be another OF, to bring them in as “service dogs.”

This attested to some of the OFs having a well-deserved reputation as being animals, although at their ages now the animal OFs are completely harmless. (It takes so little to amuse us).

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it through the freezing rain and fog to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg were more than expected and they were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Roger Shafer, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, and me.

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On Tuesday, the last day of February 2017, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. This scribe generally calls the restaurants a day ahead of when we are supposed to be there to warn them the OFs are coming.

Sometimes, when they ask how many will show up, this scribe takes a stab at it. When advising the Your Way Café this particular Tuesday morning, this scribe guessed 20 to 25 people would be there. Boy, did this scribe throw the Your Way Café a curve! Sorry, Your Way.

The OMOTM held the restaurant to its name (Your Way Café) and they ordered their bacon medium or burnt to a crisp, their eggs like rocks or just warm, and their sausage with which some have links, and some have patties. The guys are even fussy about their home fries, and, again, some wanted them with onions, some wanted them really crispy, while some wanted hash browns, and even a few wanted them with horseradish.

Some of the OFs watch what the waitress scribbles down and say it is a wonder the cook comes up with anything close to what they order. Yet most of the time the OFs get exactly what they order so there must be some kind of standard to eggs over easy; or crispy bacon; or the difference between light, medium, and dark toast.

The OFs stick to much of the bylaws — especially the ones about no politics, no religion, and no tattling on why one OF or the other is in the pokey — however, they did wander a little bit into politics with a few comments. These comments were not too controversial such as how tough it is for a red guy to be in a blue state, county, or city; conversely, it is tough for a blue guy to be in a red state, county, or city.  No one got bent out of shape over these observations.

Mainstays are vanishing

The OFs talked about how their shopping mainstays have either bit the dust and are no longer around, while some others are starting to show signs of joining the group. Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, Macy’s, Woolworths, Kresge (which became Kmart, then Kmart purchased Sears).

The OFs remember all these stores when they were places to shop, especially Wards and Sears for the farmer. Both sold tractors and tractor supplies; both sold chickens, and ducks; plus they were the places to go for tools, and tires — all good stuff and all made in the USA. Camping equipment; guns; hunting and fishing supplies, including boats, were all available at Sears and Wards. The customer could buy a violin, a motorcycle, or even a car, at the same place. Going shopping (for the OFs) is not fun anymore.

The OFs talked about the new Dollar Store distribution center that is being built in Amsterdam. A few OFs said they would believe it when the earth movers move in. Some of the OFs were wondering why the Dollar Store chose that particular site until they realized that there are train tracks to that section of town so the location began to make sense.

To add to this is the proximity of the Thruway — the exit will be almost like the I-88 exits for Walmart trucks and other haulers getting off the interstate and going through Central Bridge to get to the Walmart distribution center in Sharon Springs. The OFs were wondering why Walmart doesn’t sponsor a NASCAR Racecar as Dollar General did, or does. One OF suggested that Walmart is supposed to appeal to rednecks, so what better way than through NASCAR?

Lightning strikes

The OFs discussed the storm that rolled through in the early evening on Saturday, Feb. 25, and the church in Cobleskill that had lightning strike its tower from that short nasty storm. The OFs who live in that area said it lit up the whole town, and they could feel the thunder clap.

Some of the other OFs didn’t know if it was that exact strike or not but there was one rumble of thunder that seemed very low and shook everything. This clap was felt in Schoharie, Middleburgh, and up on the Hill in Berne and Knox.

The timing, according to the OFs anyway, did place the clap at about the same time as the strike on the church steeple in Cobleskill.

Ways of working

A dialogue that solidified what many conversations of the OFs have on some Tuesday mornings was on how people work, particularly the OFs.

Some OFs want to work alone; they don’t want any help. Some like company while they work and these OFs continue to work on whatever project the OF has underway.

Others like all the help they can get when they have a project going and when another OF shows up he had better have work gloves with him because the OF will put him (or them) to work.

Then there is the OF who likes people to help because most of the time these OFs think the OFs helping knows more about what is going on than he does. These are very good examples of whatever floats your boat; eventually the boat will get the OF to shore.

Also, there is the OF who knows what he is doing but, if another group of OFs comes to “help,” after they are gone, the OF goes and does a lot of it over because it didn’t pass muster.

Now comes (and the OMOTM don’t have any of these) a different group of people that would rather have anyone else do the work but them. These people are good pointer-outers of what has to be done but don’t ask them to do it.

Yep, many ways people, and not only the OFs, work.

The OFs filling up the Your Way Café in Schoharie on a very unusual winter’s day were: Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Schafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Dave Williams, Roger Chapman, Jim Heiser, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Marty Herzog, Sonny Mercer, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Don Wood, Ray Kennedy, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

 

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